Anthony Fauci, the media-savvy doctor who oversees vaccine development for the U.S., rolled up his sleeve for the cameras and got his coronavirus shot Tuesday in a bid to boost confidence in an immunization campaign designed to restore normal life.
Dr. Fauci said he received the shot publicly because he sees patients at the National Institutes of Health and, more importantly, he wanted to serve as a role model for the rest of the country.
“I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine. And I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we could have a veil of protection over this country that would end this pandemic,” said Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Experts say 70%-80% of the public needs to get immunized to build the type of widespread immunity that can bring the virus down to manageable levels next year.
Federal officials are celebrating the advent of vaccines at a critical juncture in the fight, with the virus overwhelming hospitals in some parts of the U.S. and a mutation in the United Kingdom disrupting Christmas and global travel.
The European Union told its 27 members to discourage nonessential travel but said outright bans could be counterproductive and shut out people trying to make it home for Christmas.
“Given the need to ensure essential travel and transit home as described in the recommendation, any prohibition of transport services, such as flight or train bans, should be discontinued,” the EU said in recommendations.
The U.K. and France decided to let freight flow again after a short pause, while allowing travelers who present a negative test for the virus to cross borders.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is cracking down on movement and commerce in London and southern England after modeling showed the mutation could be up to 70% more contagious. However, experts say experimental data are needed to be sure the variant is spreading faster.
The U.K. is sequencing the virus often, so it might have uncovered an existing surge.
The U.S. government hasn’t imposed new restrictions on British travelers. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo struck a deal with major airlines that requires passengers to test negative before flying from London to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
The wrinkle comes as U.S. officials are trying to celebrate the approval and delivery of two vaccines less than a year after the coronavirus from China hit their radar.
Dr. Fauci’s team worked this year with Moderna, the drugmaker that provided the vaccines loaded with groundbreaking “messenger RNA” technology.
“What we’re seeing now is the culmination of years of research, which have led to a phenomenon that is truly unprecedented,” Dr. Fauci said. “I consider it an honor to be a part of this process.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II, NIH Director Francis Collins and six frontline workers also received their initial doses.
Mr. Azar said the vaccines received the same type of review that any other would, despite efforts to speed the process by reviewing and manufacturing the products simultaneously.
Wearing a short-sleeve polo shirt, the secretary said he felt it was important for him to receive the shot in front of the cameras after using his authority to approve them for everyone else.
Dr. Collins was a bit more dramatic, rolling up the sleeve of his black T-shirt and saying: “Bring it on.”
“Are you done yet?” he quipped. “That was no problem, people.”
NIH staff members said they wanted to protect themselves so they can focus on treating patients.
Each of the NIH recipients received a note advising them to return for their second dose in 28 days.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech on Dec. 11, clearing the way for shipments of nearly 3 million doses last week and 2 million doses this week.
President Trump’s vaccine team, Operation Warp Speed, is sending nearly 6 million doses of Moderna’s version to the states this week after it won regulatory approval Friday.
An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says health care workers and nursing home residents should be prioritized for vaccination, followed by other essential workers and those over age 70 in the second phase.
The third phase should extend shots to those 65—74 years, people aged 16—64 years with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers who were not included in earlier phases.
Governors have the final say over how to use their allotments, however.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says once the priority groups have been served, the vaccines should be available to anyone over 16 years old who wants one.
Members of Congress and senior Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, are getting doses as part of continuity-of-government efforts.